How do we “reconcile” justice and mercy for those who hurt us?
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:16-19
Years ago I owned a small business, and experienced first hand the long labor of constantly having to reconcile accounts. Looking at cash receipts and register tape, accounting software reports and bank statements, it was a process that demanded focus and patience, and there was a right way to reconcile the books and plenty of wrong ways, as well.
God is also in the reconciling business. We read this passage and typically think about individual relationships. We see “reconciliation” as the process by which two people are brought into harmony with one another as they should have been all along, and that is totally correct.
But there is another facet of “reconciliation” in God’s economy.
The Bible is clear that the blood of Christ is offered to all, freely, graciously, without respect to personal history or nationality. It says in this passage that “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them,” and we see that those who accept His offer are then “in Christ,” made new and made right with God. Their trespasses are not counted against them and they who were once in opposition to His holiness and justice are brought into harmony with it through the cross.
Those who refuse to be “in Christ” are also included in God’s reconciliation, but in a different way. They are in opposition to His holiness and justice, and must be brought in line with it. If the offer of Christ’s blood is refused, then God will reconcile them to His holiness through their own.
A desire for revenge and personal satisfaction has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus. May we not lose sight, though, of the demand for justice from a holy God, and the privilege and right for His established authorities to be the ones to carry it out.
(Note: this post is part two of two. Read part one here.)